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to stay focused when setting up the hottest girl he’s ever met with everyone but himself. Maybe he could just set her up with all the wrong men, and keep his hands off his new friend…Yeah. His promotion is toast.
Operation Smooth Sailing had officially entered week two. All Eric Blackwell needed to do in order to make junior partner at Dixon, Rosenbaum & Schoot was maintain the status quo for the next six weeks. Basically, he just had to stay under the radar and get the Anderson Enterprises acquisition to work out on paper without screwing anything up.
He straightened his tie and pushed the button for the fifteenth floor. Six weeks. No problem. Well, except for that little bit of bad news about some potential negative tax consequences for Anderson Enterprises that the analysis department had missed. Yeah, that.
He straightened his tie again. Being team leader, it was his task to brief Mr. Dixon on the details, and he’d been putting it off, hoping someone in his department would find some case law precedent, or a loophole, or a freaking magic spell to fix it.
The elevator doors slid open, and before he made ten steps into the lobby, a booming voice stopped him in his tracks. “This message arrived yesterday afternoon, Marcie. Why am I only now receiving it?”
The receptionist cleared her throat and slumped in her chair behind the semicircular teak desk in the lobby. “I’m sorry, Mr. Dixon. So many things came at once near the end of the day. I emailed your secretary and she said to—”
Face red, Mr. Dixon waved the paper in front of Marcie’s nose. He wasn’t a small man by any means, but when he was angry, he filled a room. “So, now you’re going to blame someone else?”
“No sir, your secretary said to… I… I…”
“There are two things I can’t abide: people who shift blame, and procrastinators.”
Yep, well, today probably wasn’t a good day to deliver late news about the analysis department’s mistake. Eric froze near the west wall of the lobby and did his best wood paneling imitation, hoping his dark suit jacket was sufficient camo to keep Mr. Dixon from noticing him. This was the last thing he needed first thing in the morning. He hadn’t even made it to his office yet.
“Dixon, Rosenbaum & Schoot prides itself on reliability, punctuality, and accuracy.” Mr. Dixon emphasized his statement with a palm slap on the desk, causing poor Marcie to almost launch out of her skin. “We expect all our employees to uphold this standard.”
“Yes, sir.” Marcie stared down at her hands.
Mr. Dixon folded the message and placed it in his suit pocket. “Well, then.”
Eric held his breath as the man strode with purpose toward the hallway to his office.
Shit, shit, shit. How did he do that? He’d never even turned around. No way could he have seen him standing there. “Good morning, Mr. Dixon.”
“I believe you are late delivering the financials on the Anderson deal. I’ll hold three o’clock open for you. Since I haven’t heard anything on this, I expect good news.”
“Three o’clock.” Eric’s stomach sank. Yeah…sank. Perfect. Man the lifeboats; Operation Smooth Sailing just hit an iceberg.
Once Mr. Dixon disappeared from view, Marcie covered her face with her hands. Crying did it to Eric every time—yanked his heart out and stomped on it. When he was younger, he’d do anything to stop his mother’s crying, and he’d do anything now. Poor Marcie.
He took a deep breath and approached the desk. “Hey, Marcie. Sorry about that. He’s really not all that bad.” Well, that was a bust. It came out more like a question than a statement of fact.
To his relief, her eyes were completely dry when she lowered her hands from her face. “Yes, he is. He’s…” But she didn’t finish her thought before the phone rang. “Dixon, Rosenbaum, & Schoot, could you hold please?” Without waiting for an answer, she pushed the hold button. “I just had a million things come in at once this morning, too”—she gestured to a foot-tall stack of mail on the corner of the desk—“and I can’t possibly handle all of it and answer the phones. And Mr. Dixon scares me.”
Yeah, second that. His grip tightened on the briefcase containing the bad news report on the acquisition. “Is there something I can do to help you?”
“No.” She adjusted her headset. “You’re sweet to ask, though.”
The elevator slid open, and a delivery guy stepped out with an enormous bouquet of flowers. Making a line straight for Marcie, he set the vase on the desktop and shoved a clipboard at her right as the phone rang again. She put two more calls on hold as the guy stood there, clipboard out, clearly unaffected by the harried receptionist.
“Can anyone sign for those?” Eric asked when the phone rang again. The deliverer handed him the pen, he signed for the flowers, and the guy went on his way while Marcie directed a call to the Worker’s Comp Department and another to the Family Law Division.
She stood and checked the card on the flowers, and with a groan, slumped down in her chair. “I have the worst luck ever. Of course they go to the office farthest from my desk.”
He turned the arrangement to find out who it was for. “Jane Dixon” was scrawled in blue ink on the undersized envelope held in place with a plastic pitchfork-looking thing.
Jane Dixon. Eric played the image of her through his head. Small and blonde with huge blue eyes—not anything like her father, the man currently waiting to kill Eric’s partnership dreams. He and Jane had been in the same meetings on occasion, but they’d never spoken to each other…just stared—well, he’d stared; she probably hadn’t even noticed him.
Jane put in long, long hours, like he did. He knew this because even though she worked in the Family Law Division and he in the Business Mergers and Acquisitions Department, her office was down the hall from his. One of the highlights of his day was when she walked by his open door. On most nights, her office light was still on well after nine o’clock when he packed it in to go home.
He stared at the card, dying to peek inside and see who was sending her flowers. Maybe a boyfriend… A strange ping of jealousy flared and he almost laughed. Jealous. He was the pitiful guy who left his door open to score a look at her. She didn’t even know who he was. It wasn’t like he’d ever dreamed of asking her out or anything—okay, well, maybe he had dreamed of it, but it was a ridiculous fantasy. Not only was there a strict non-fraternization policy at DR&S, she was the boss’s daughter, for fuck’s sake.
Jealous? Nope. Pathetic? Absolutely.
The switchboard lit up again, and the receptionist gave a frustrated huff.
“Listen, Marcie. I’m going down that hallway anyway. Why don’t I just drop these off for you?” He picked up the vase.
“Oh my gosh, Mr. Blackwell. You’re the nicest guy. Thank you so much.”
Nice… Yeah, being Mr. Nice Guy had nothing to do with getting a close-up look at Jane Dixon. Nothing at all. Again, pathetic. “Not a problem. I hope your day gets better.”
“It just did.”
Yeah, so had his.
“Are you sure there isn’t somewhere else you can stay?” She paused, then added, “For everybody’s sake.”
He pivoted to face her, a lazy grin curling his mouth. “Is this about last night?”
“No.” It was totally about last night and whether she should be embarrassed or relieved. “Why would you think this was about last night? Nothing happened…right?”
“You don’t remember?”
Mortified, she shook her head.
He closed the distance between them to a couple of inches and stroked his finger along her jaw. “Now that’s a shame.”
All the saliva in her mouth dried up and her breath hovered in her throat as his azure gaze caressed her face. He smelled like an autumn harvest and minty toothpaste, with a dash of cinnamon thrown into the mix. If lust had a smell, it would be Lincoln.
Before she could reply, he turned toward the front door and walked inside, Chester trotting alongside him. Damn it, he’d breached her barricade with no more than a steamy look.
Each book in the Wedding Favors series is a stand-alone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Bridesmaid Blues
Book #2 Random Acts of Marriage
Book #3 Properly Groomed
Marissa Clarke is a multi-award-winning, RITA® nominated author of romance for adults and teens. She lives in Texas, where everything is bigger, especially the mosquitoes. When not writing, she wrangles her rowdy pack of three teens, husband, and a Cairn terrier named Annabel, who rules the house (and Marissa’s heart) with an iron paw.Marissa Clarke is a pseudonym. Her real name is Mary Lindsey and she also writes young adult novels for Penguin USA.
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